The Reading Strategies Book, Goal Twelve

08 September 2015
This is the Reading Strategies Book Book Study. Let's dig in.

I'll preface my post by saying my post is coming from the perspective of an elementary special education teacher working with kids from K-5th. It's a wide range with varying abilities, I kind of love it. Welcome to Goal 12! Supporting Students' Conversations with speaking, listening, and deepening comprehension.

As much as students need to understand what they read, they've got to have an ever-expanding tool box of strategies to help them drive conversations with classmates, teachers, and everyone else they talk with. If we use the onion metaphor to think about comprehension levels, we want students to peel back layers and go deeper. Some can, some are learning, and some just haven't had enough practice. As teachers, we've got to ask ourselves if we're giving kids the strategies to possess those skills. Or are we kind of hoping they'll get them? This is an important self-reflective piece that's critical in teaching.

For me, I'm taking this chapter and pushing myself to focus on those strategies with some of my students. Each of my students have critical areas in comprehension that can be strengthened and/or tweaked. I'll be focusing on three: Taking Risks, Whole body Listening, and Taking Turns without Raising Hands.  

You should know, there are 21 different strategies for GOAL 12. Twenty One. I just picked a few that I wanted to focus on with my students. You can pick whatever floats your boat. It's all good.

I'll start with this because it's my favorite. I teach in a smaller room and most of the time I have 2-3 kids. Most of the time we keep it light and fun because we can and our work is somewhat personal because of the location and size. I want my students to take risks on a daily basis in what they're thinking...but this is hard. Many times my kids don't even know what risks are (when compared to book reading). It takes practice and a safe environment.

Once we begin to hit themes, character traits, and connections I'll really see what my students are capable of producing. I enjoy the close proximity because it affords students to care less about what their other peers might think. They're all on the same playing level in my room. Taking a risk isn't just comprehension, it's reading, decoding, following along, and sometimes even enjoying a story/text/book they weren't expecting. Luckily, a lot of the responsibility falls on me--can I get them to buy in and trust me.

I don't care how old the students are--this strategy makes such a big difference. For over 95% of our students, if their body isn't ready to listen--they won't. I mean, think about staff meetings that we sit in. Are we really ready to listen or do we have our back turned with a foot out the door? Don't answer that.

We're only a few weeks into the school year but when I'm teaching direct instruction reading lessons my first reminder to students is to get their body ready. Sit up, lean forward, and get ready to engage. It almost seems to simple. Whole body listening forces kids to stay in a lesson, plus it makes sure that I'm modeling the correct strategy for my students. We all win.
The more I read about this strategy, the more I began to realize that it was more than just about listening. This involves key social elements which many students need to recognize; when to listen, when to add, when to question, and when to keep those conversations from turning into awkward moments.

Taking turns without needing to raise hands builds upon prior strategies such as the (previously mentioned) whole body listening and social cues. This is just good life practice, which we can never really have enough of. Eye contact, taking a risk during quiet moments, deciding the proper time to make conversational adjustment--they are also crucial components of collaboration between students.

A Funny Thing Happened...
This book isn't just about reading. Sure, it might have the word READING in the title--don't let that fool you. This can be used across all settings with application to math, writing, and just learning how to learn.

Small Chunks
If we're being honest (and I think we are), I haven't even come close to reading the entire thing. It's long. I'm kind of wondering if George RR Martin co-wrote this with Jennifer Sarravallo because it's over 350 pages. I've also found myself taking small bites from this book. Each page has a tip, level, example, and even other books/people/ideas you can see more of. There is a lot of information, take it too quick and it'll all leave you. Besides, you'll run out of post-it notes trying to remember all the tips you like.

Below is a poster set for to hang using four simple strategies to help students remember How We Have Book TALKS.  Grab it here or click on the image.

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